Professor Ed Feser on how left-wing appeals to “social justice” on questions of gender, race, and class mask a deeply antisocial ressentiment that’s destructive of peace and order.
I guess one of the gravest dangers with extreme inequality in society (and I am referring to those cases where the ‘haves’ are very rich and the ‘have-nots’ are genuinely poor or struggle to satisfy the basic needs of a decent life, especially those needs related to raising their children and providing for their families) is that it can feed malignant envy, and all the destructive effects on the social order that flow from it. It can also be used and manipulated by evil people, to gain power or enforce pernicious ideologies (Socialism/Communism in all its variants being the most obvious example).
But it is also true that such situations of extreme inequality doo seem unjust in an of themselves, at least in those cases were the disfavoured genuinely work hard and live decent lives, and yet lack all opportunity to realistically attain material security, are denied their just salaries or fall prey to usury. Note that the problematic aspect of such extreme inequality would not be the imbalance in outcome and amount of prosperity (nothing wrong with that, even if such disparity is big), but the fact that it is a result of actual injustice due to the explorative/fraudulent relationship between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, and that one of the outcomes from such relationship is extended poverty. A less extreme form of this would be those situations were the more disfavoured can provide for themselves as individuals but are unable to earn enough to sustain families (hence marriage is discouraged).
Markets that are left totally ‘free’ and unchecked from prudential considerations regarding the common good can also create perverse incentives that degrade the social fabric of the lowly classes (family disintegration, collapse of public and private morality, gang violence...) and sink them into an increasingly disfavoured material situation, triggering a destructive self-feeding cycle.
Beyond this article, I'm not deeply versed in this subject. But many would argue for "equity" today, do so as a direct result of unjust gains of some over others, which you write is not envy. Our political system has tolerated slavery of a race of people or social, political and economic segregation that prevent social mobility for most members of this race for 170 out of 223 years as a Republic. Doesn't this injustice, as you write, demand "indignation at injustice, and satisfaction at seeing the wrong eventually corrected (however imperfectly in this case")? If there was ever an example of needing to correct an injustice, isn't the way black Americans in this country have been treated, a dictionary definition of this?
Thanks for the thoughtful write up. It does seem that CRT and anti-straight white male sentiment is a result of envy.
I am curious about how these principles can be applied today in the economic realm, especially as the cost of living keeps rising. Many in the younger generations are unable to afford houses and largely lack the economic blessings afforded to their parents. As wealth keeps stratifying and a healthy middle class shrinks, it seems hard for the struggling middle and lower classes to avoid negative attitudes toward those with economic advantage. This especially as those who hold the advantage often do so to the detriment of the lower classes (think of those who own many homes only to rent them out, or who destabilize the financial system with risky trades). Where does a healthy anger at an apparent injustice become unrighteous envy?
Extirpation indeed, but what of the children?
This pernicious philosophy (approach) has been and is being preached to our children at school. I would venture to say 90% of teachers are captured by this social justice tripe unaware that it is demonstrably resentment in disguise. Yes: 90%?
We are simply whistling past the graveyard if we do not acknowledge and address the problem at it’s root: education.
“The university has been to the nation as the wooden horse was to the Trojans.”
Sir Francis Bacon.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn at his convocation address to Harvard in 1978 warned the assembled audience - the very cream of the crop - that their mistaken approach would “ only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events”.
This is a wonderful, thoughtful analysis of both Aquinas and Nietzsche, two thinkers seemingly miles apart (I wonder how they'd get along in the same room) whose thinking converges on the topic of envy. I thank him for showing me how the two not only fit together but reveal the rotten roots of CRT for all to see.